Many transit agencies are reluctant to redevelop park-and-ride lots, even in fairly dense urban areas, for fear of losing ridership. In many but not all cases, this is a valid concern: ridership in the short term would drop if the parking lot was removed. However, this is not the final word, for at least a couple of reasons.
First, park-and-ride lots are typically highly subsidized. In all cases I’m aware of in the BART system, revenues from parking fees don’t even cover the cost of parking lot maintenance, much less the capital costs from the initial construction. At most stations, the standard parking charge is $1 for a full day, and it costs BART a 30% overhead to collect (pdf source). For comparison, the construction cost of a surface parking lot is about $4,000 per space, and BART estimates upkeep costs of $430 annually per space in 2012 dollars (same pdf source). (And if you’re interested, structured parking spaces cost about $20,000 per space in construction costs and $650 in annual maintenance.) The $4,000 capital cost at 3% over its 30-year lifetime annualizes to about $200. Thus, a parking spot that’s occupied 300 days a year makes 300 x $0.70 = $210 in revenue and costs BART $630. BART is paying a pretty hefty cost to “buy” the driver’s ridership.
Second, the park-and-ride lot tends to stifle walkable development in the area. People largely don’t want to live next to big parking lots, and they can make it unpleasant to walk nearby. Thus, the existence of the lot tends to reduce the number of people who can access the station by non-auto modes, in the long term. Given that mass transit requires a sufficient density of jobs and people to even make sense, the utility of the overall system is reduced.
I wrote a paper which analyzes a plausible redevelopment of part of the Ashby BART park-and-ride station, from both a ridership perspective and a cost-benefit perspective. It was originally written for a class last semester, and I’ve modified it only slightly from that version. From the introduction:
I examine BART’s current TOD Policy to understand BART’s various motivations to redevelop its park-and-ride lots (or not). The main body of the paper is a proposal to redevelop 108 parking spaces at southern end of the Ashby BART parking lot (with no provision of replacement parking). I use quite conservative assumptions to estimate that such a development would be fairly profitable, providing a return on investment above 5% for the developer, assuming market conditions comparable to those of other recent developments in Berkeley. The development would also provide a sizeable annual net revenue stream of $475,000 to $640,000 for BART as lessor, relative to current parking upkeep and revenues. Furthermore, the development could actually result in ridership gains, under realistic assumptions. As a result, the development is completely consistent with BART’s stated principles and long-term goals.
The full paper is available here.